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The Rise and Fall of Little Voice – Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Writer and Director: Jim Cartwright

Reviewer: Laura Stimpson

[rating:3.5]

Set in a working class town in the North, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is a heart-warming fairytale about an anxious, reclusive girl, Little Voice (Jess Robinson). She rarely leaves her room, but instead listens to her dead father’s record collection at high volume, miming along to the words. Her music drowns out the drunken goings on of her mother the wild, man eating, Mari (Beverley Callard) much to her mother’s annoyance.

It is when one of Mari’s boyfriends – Ray (Philip Andrew) happens to be in the house, that Little Voices (LV’s) world is about to change. He hears her singing and realizes she has a unique talent of impersonating some of the world’s most iconic diva’s, including: Edith Piaf, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Bassey and Judy Garland. He recognizes her talents and gets her booked in as a turn at the local working men’s club.

On entering the theatre we immediately feel involved in the performance, and the scene is set for what is to come. A variety show is taking place on stage, compered by Mr Boo (Duggie Brown). We see tap dancing and music before curtain’s up, and you may even win some pickled gherkins if you’re lucky enough to win the raffle or the bingo at the interval.

Written and directed by Jim Cartwright, this play has a great level of humour throughout, the writing is witty and each character excels in their given rôle. Beverley Callard is perfectly cast in the rôle of Mari Hoff, she is vulgar and rude, but has a depth of character that makes you feel sorry for her when her luck changes at the end of the play. Sally Plumb gets the most laughs as Sadie, Mari’s best friend, she is a true comedy performer with great timing and subtlety. Of course, undoubtedly the star of the show is Jess Robinson as Little Voice, who impersonates all the stars with a great likeness. Her vocal, comedy and acting abilities are outstanding.

The set is simple but adaptable. Mostly set inside Little Voices house there is a house structure where we can see into LV’s bedroom, the stairs, front room and kitchen. Through lighting of the set, it is easily transformed into the inside of a working men’s club when it’s time to be dazzled with cabaret performances. The fire scene is well executed and believable with flames and materials falling from the roof.

My only gripe about this piece is that it seems to lose a bit of momentum early in the second half. We’re waiting for LV to sing and it is unnecessarily, more of the same from the first half. Fortunately though, with the big performance of LV this lull is soon forgotten.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is a heart-warming, down to earth play which guarantees laughs and a good feeling through some nostalgic music.

Runs until 3rd November 2012

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